Mark Z. Danielewski was born in 1966 and is still alive. He was the son of avant-garde documentary
filmmaker Tad Z. Danielewski. He spent his younger years living in Switzerland, India, Africa and Spain before settling in Utah. As an adult, he studied Latin at the university of California during summer, and afterwards got a job in a movie theater.
He had a big idea for a book but wasn't sure how to approach it. He would sit and write in a café; some of this material eventually wound up in his cult book "house of leaves." He would order a large orange juice and a latte. he became broke, and soon enough, the large OJ was ditched for a small.. and then just a latte. He ended up working on the book for ten years, which kinda explains why the novel got so much publicity even though it was being published by a small firm. you see, he did something unheard of, he posted his novel, whilst in its works, on the internet. Not for glamorous reasons, but simply for friends who wondered what on earth this 'book' he was writing was all about. He didn't like the idea of printing out a seven hundred page manuscript to send to a handful of people who may not even like it. A waste of ink, postage, and time. So of course, eventually strangers came across it. And so, from a small project which never meant to publish more than 8000 paperbacks, never meant to have a book tour, we have now an opus published both in hardcover and paperback. One month after the book was released, house of leaves had already entered its third paperback printing.
Not bad of course for a man who says that to start something like house of leaves, part of you has to be a 'certified moron'. Looking back he says that there was a time he could have stopped, just dropped the entire thing. But suddenly the time came when he realised it was absolutely impossible, that it was a priority, a compulsion. And that was that. "Welcome to hell", he says, matter-of-factly.
Of course, house of leaves would become more extraordinary when his younger sister, the musician Poe, created an album's worth of songs tied in with Danielewski’s book. It wasn't just a case of a writer paired up with a musician. poe's cd, haunted, influenced the book. He was listening to it while he was writing it, and she was reading sections of his book whilst writing her album. While listening to an early demo, Danielewski decided to use it as a backdrop for an erotic johnny truant passage. Soon after, Poe’s chorus was added, and hey pretty was a polished song.
He says that his book was not one of the many which are written with film rights in mind. He believed this limits the incredible potential of the written word. It's a whole 'nother medium. "if you're thinking the hollywood deal while you write, you're already selling out all the possibilities you have right there on the page." He loves films but house of leaves is just not that type of experience, he says.
Danielewski also doesn't like the traps of genre labelling. He says he doesn't consider himself a horror novelist. Although he says that anybody who deals with big questions could be described as a horror writer.Hhe listed a range of writers, from Emily Dickinson to Nietzsche who approach the bigger questions and "ultimately unveil something that's terrifying". He had one woman come up to him in a bookstore and say to him, "you know, everyone told me it was a horror book, but when I finished it, I realized that it was a love story." And she was right. He says that genre labelling is just a marketing tool. He says if he ever writes again, he may write something completely dissimilar.
'If' seems a little pessimistic. This kid wrote his first novel at the age of ten. It was called 'the hell-hole'. It was a new years resolution, a spur-of-the-moment thing, and he promised to himself he'd write a page a day. Soon enough he had a 360 page book about a young kid who grows up in nyc, becomes a coke addict, bashes a cop and goes to prison (the hell-hole). It was brutal and apparently his parents were deeply disturbed and refused to talk about it.
The reason I was so drawn to Mark Danielewski is that he really is an interesting kinda guy. He talked in an interview about the way he finds the genre of 'smart horror' encouraging, on a cultural level. This is because smart horror goes after the deeper origins of fear, so that it provokes thought rather than a simple adrenalin rush. Whereas, films in the 80's were all about action, and namely, anger. And this is what he feels strongly about. because in the eighties, there was no close examination of that anger. But anger is always a result of fear. If you're angry, you're afraid in some way, of losing something, of the world being too different from what you want. It covers multiple types of fear, but it is still fear nonetheless. So the reason he is encouraged is because it means there is a newfound desire to get past the anger response and deal with the more courageous questions of what am i afraid of and why? I might add that house of leaves also deals with that fear.